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The Other Cleat Drops -- And A Rabbit's Foot With It (Update)

By RD Heldenfels Published: February 9, 2006

Yesterday, after the announcement that Al Michaels had gotten out of his agreement with ESPN, a colleague and I wondered how long it would take NBC to announce a deal with Michaels. We guessed it would happen the same day. NBC instead waited a whole extra day. Here are highlights from the network's announcement:

Emmy Award-winning sportscaster Al Michaels, one of the most renowned sports broadcasters of all time, and the commentator called "TV's best play-by-play announcer" by the Associated Press, will join "NBC's Sunday Night NFL Football" this fall, it was announced today by Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.  Michaels joins game analyst John Madden in the booth, reuniting the most honored NFL broadcast team on television, with Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth serving as co-hosts of NBC's "Football Night in America" studio show. ...

Michaels and Madden's NBC debut will be the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, Sunday night, August 6.  Madden will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame that same weekend.  Teams and game time are expected to be announced in March.

(end excerpts)

And what did it take for NBC to get Michaels? Here's an ESPN announcement with some details:

ESPN announced today that it has acquired significant programming and promotional rights from NBC and an important historical animation asset for The Walt Disney Company.  These rights were obtained as part of the transaction permitting Al Michaels to contract with NBC.

The following rights were acquired by ESPN:

·         Telecast rights to the live Friday coverage of four Ryder Cups (2008, 10, 12 and 14), together with ancillary programming rights, the right to re-air NBC coverage, and extended highlights rights. The Ryder Cup is a major international golf team championship that matches the United States against Europe.

·         Expanded video highlights for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS for the Olympics beginning with this month’s Winter Olympics and continuing through the 2012 Summer Olympics.

·         Through 2011, NBC will air a video promotion for ESPN’s Monday Night Football game each week during its Sunday night football telecasts.

·         Through 2011, expanded highlight rights for NBC Sports properties including Notre Dame football, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, as part of a broad highlights exchange.

Oswald The Lucky Rabbit – The Forerunner to Mickey Mouse

In addition, The Walt Disney Company has acquired rights to the historical 1927 cartoon series featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.  Walt Disney produced 26 Oswald cartoons, which were distributed by Universal and well-received by audiences.  Universal owned all the rights to the character, however, prompting Disney to then create Mickey Mouse.

(end ESPN info)

I have to think that all this wheeling and dealing resulted from one thing: John Madden wanted to work with Michaels. NBC will want a young-male demo for its telecasts. Madden aims at that demographic thanks to his video-game connections. Michaels, not so much. But at this point in his career, Madden probably has no desire to break in a new on-air partner. He is comfortable with Michaels, and NBC made Madden happy. 

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